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What I’ve Learned After Adopting An Ex-Racing Greyhound 

Written by Kim Taylor

Updated

Elodie - my greyhound

This is Elodie, she’s an ex-racing greyhound who adopted us just over four years ago. I’ve met a lot of dogs over the years, from working in shelters as a student to volunteer work I’ve done as an adult. In all these years, I’ve never met a dog like Elodie.

If you’re thinking of adopting an ex-racing greyhound, here’s what I’ve learned. These aren’t all going to apply to every greyhound and they’re not all unique to this breed either but here’s the good, the bad and the ugly from my perspective. 

You have to understand their formative years

Usually, when you rehome a dog from the shelter, they’ve (hopefully) not been living in kennels for too long. Most will have usually had some experience of living in a house and being a pet. 

This isn’t the case for most ex-racing dogs. Like the majority of her ‘colleagues’, Elodie had lived her whole life in kennels. After adopting her from a local greyhound rescue and through the power of social media, we had loads of information about her formative years. Some of the staff at her racing kennels reached out and told us what a lovely dog she was and we were reassured that she’d been well looked after. 

When Elodie first came home, we had to understand:

  • Stairs were new to her - We had to introduce her slowly and keep a very close eye on her for a few weeks. Even now, years later, she bolts up and down the stairs in two or three bounces and is incapable of taking them one at a time. 
  • Furnishings were also new - We were told it might take her some time to understand what sofas and beds were. Within an hour of arriving home, she’d not only understood them but ranked them in order of her favorite and hasn’t left them since. She’ll take a soft piece of furniture over a dog bed any day!
  • She came toilet trained to a point - As most dogs don’t like to do their business where they sleep, they’ll generally try and hold it in when confined to a small kennel. Elodie was used to being taken outside to go to the toilet so we were able to establish a quick routine to continue this. 
  • She had to learn to ask to go outside - Although she was 4 years old when she came to live with us, we had to use ‘back to basics’ puppy toilet training. We’d open the door and pop her in the garden every hour to get her used to it. She soon learned to stand by the door when she wanted to go out. 
  • She had a different relationship with humans - In her racing days, she was looked after by mainly female kennel workers. The only time she came into regular contact with men, would be on racing days whether it was the vet or her owners and spectators who would be a little rougher with her. This isn’t true for all racing hounds but to this day, she’s more affectionate to women than men. 
Elodie chilling on some grass

Ex-Racing Greyhounds can have specific traits 

  • They can run - The most obvious trait you’ll find in a greyhound is their speed. Easily reaching 45mph, they can really run! Despite this, they’re not endurance runners so they can’t maintain this speed for long.  
  • They can hunt - Greyhounds already have a very high prey drive. Being a sighthound breed also means they have much better sight (especially over long distances) compared to most dogs. As they’re trained to run by chasing after a mechanical lure, it taps into their heightened eyesight and prey drive. 
  • They don’t have great recall - Recall training is rarely a priority when teaching a greyhound to run. They’re trained in enclosed spaces and once they’ve had a short run, they’re ready for a rest. 

All this combined means that if your greyhound sees (or hears or smells) something interesting, you have very little chance of catching them until they’ve had enough! 

  • They have very thin skin - Originating from the Mediterranean, they like the heat and have very little fat. In fact, you can see daylight through the skin on their back legs. Between their thin skin and fur, they can be prone to injuring themselves very easily. 
  • They’re very docile / lazy - Although they can run and hunt, they don’t really want to most of the time. Greyhounds are usually incredibly placid 95% of the time. They can be prone to a daily bout of the Zoomies but for the most part, they just want somewhere comfy to chill. 

What did this mean for us? 

When it comes to rehoming an older dog you have the choice of keeping their old name or coming up with a new one. If you keep the old one, it’s one less thing they have to learn when going to live with a new family. However, giving them a new name can help them disassociate any previous negativity e.g. if their old name was shouted at them a lot. 

Elodie didn’t respond to any variation of her old racing name so there seemed no point in keeping it. By helping her learn her new name, it helped us form our own bond with her and helped her understand her racing days were over. 

Although we were told she was fine with other dogs, it soon became apparent that was not the case. If anything small and fluffy got too close, she’d pick it up and hold it in her mouth. If she’s ever walked anywhere we might encounter dogs running off leash, she has to be muzzled. This doesn’t phase her in the slightest as she would have always worn a muzzle when she raced. 

She is the most accident prone being I’ve ever met! She loves to play, she has very long limbs and all the grace and coordination of a hurricane. She has accidentally torn the skin off her legs several times over the years and has damaged two toes. She never yelps when we have to clean her injuries and shows no interest when she has to wear a bandage. 

Elodie is a velcro dog. She loves people and loves attention. If someone stops us in the street or pops round to visit, she’ll happily stand there for hours if there’s some fuss in it for her. She spends most of her days lying in the armchair next to my desk and will usually follow me round the house if I go to make a drink or a snack. 

Elodie in her pink dino doggy jammies

Thin skin dogs need a little extra warmth when it gets cold

What else have we learned? 

Greyhounds don’t sit - their physiology means it’s not as natural for a greyhound to sit as it is for other dogs. They can do it if they have to, but it’s more comfortable for them to lay down. 

Elodie is never let off lead outside of a secure area but we’ve met plenty of greyhounds who do learn perfect recall. They’re a smart breed who bond with their owners. 

For a large dog, they really don’t need a lot of exercise. Whilst many will welcome the chance for a quick run, they’re happy with a 40min walk a day. It’s far more important for a greyhound to have companionship and somewhere comfy to sleep. 

Their tongues don’t fit in their mouths very well. Despite having fairly long snouts, it’s very common for greyhounds to sleep with their mouths open and we’ll often notice Elodie sitting somewhere wide awake, with a tiny bit of tongue poking out. 

They prefer soft surfaces. Whether it’s because she spent so long living in kennels or because of her boney body, we’ll rarely see Elodie lying on the floor. She prefers a fully made king bed (preferably with a human trying to sleep in it) but will settle for a couch. Dog beds are apparently beneath her! 

Sighthounds feel the cold. The advice we were given from the shelter was to check her ears and paws, if they’re both cold, she needs a jumper. Elodie now has a lovely wardrobe of jumpers, onesies, jammies and coats to help her stay warm. 

Thankfully, greyhound racing is illegal in most states in the US. More states and countries around the world are making it illegal by the year. But for now, there are still tracks operating and therefore, lots of greyhounds in desperate need of a retirement home. If you’re thinking of adopting a dog and want something on the larger side but with a docile personality, consider a greyhound. 

Elodie fast asleep with her tongue hanging out

Elodie fast asleep, enjoying her well earned retirement!